Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments. Exodus 34:28
As a college student, I majored in journalism with a minor in English. You could surmise I enjoy the written word so much I wanted to make a living at a job that required a lot of writing. I dreamed of one day writing a novel or even a regular column in a magazine. And although neither of those has happened (yet!) my eventual career path in public relations saw me using those skills in abundance.
The degradation of the written and spoken word these days drives people like me a bit batty. Not only do people rarely speak face to face but they also don’t write much. Text messaging has broken all the basic rules of the written word with shortcuts such as “lol” and “brb.” But I suppose it’s just another step in the evolution of God’s gift to us of language and the written word.
Write them (the Commands) on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,” Deuteronomy 11:20
There are currently around 6,000 different languages spoken around the world. It’s been estimated that it would have taken at least 100,000 years for a single language to have diversified that much. That would take us back to the middle of the Stone Age according to BBC Science Focus magazine. But archeologists have found languages written in Mesopotamia dating back to the 8th millennium BC. God has been at work helping us communicate with each other for a very long time!
When we think about Moses writing the Bible about 1500 years before Jesus’ birth, we should sit in awe at the beauty of it all. The poetry, symbolism, logic, history and storytelling have guided millions upon millions of believers. I’ve marveled with my Bible study ladies at the sophistication level of the apostle’s letters to the churches. Their ability to use the written word to educate, admonish and encourage people for thousands of years must be the envy of any author.
God has always provided what we, as humans, need to survive and thrive in this world. His gift of language and the written word has catapulted us ahead of all the biological life on Earth. I thank Him not only for the Bible but for all the poetry, novels, history books, songs, letters, phone calls, conversations and yes, text messages that have been made possible because of His love for us.
Before I became a Christian and even when I was a “baby Christian” I’d hear a lot of phrases from the Bible thrown about by believers and non-believers. Passages such as “judge not, lest you be judged” (Matt 7:1) and “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13) are frequently taken out of context and misused. And then there’s the quotes that aren’t even in the Bible such as, “God helps those who help themselves,” “God will never give you more than you can handle,” and “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” While all those sound good, we must always be careful not to put words in God’s mouth. Along with all of these I think one of the most misunderstood concepts people have is about being wealthy. Non-believers will use this against successful Christians. And believers sometimes think having wealth is a sin. When Jesus said,
This was in response to asking a wealthy ruler to give up all his power and wealth and come follow Him. The ruler was very sad because he was very wealthy and he wasn’t all that honest. It’s necessary to know that no one is saved by giving up all their wealth. What Jesus was really asking of the ruler was to be honest about what he coveted. There was much more going on in this story than a man being told to give up his wealth to follow Jesus. This is why I keep hearing over and over these days to not just read the Bible but to study it. Take, for instance, this famous poem by William Wadsworth:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze …
“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud“
If we were to just read it for what it basically says we would think he was a lonely man who thought he was a cloud. And when he saw some flowers he thought they were actually dancing. Sounds like someone on drugs. But when we study the poem, we find a beautiful short tale about a man who loves nature and finds joy whenever he sees daffodils. Therein lies the need for great Biblical teachers and pastors.
As we explore the last chapter of James, we find him being very angry with the wealthy members of the church. Not because they are wealthy, but just like the ruler Jesus admonished, they have turned their wealth into their god. They have cheated and lied all in the name of increasing their wealth. How many of us today covet our bank account in lieu of helping those in need? As an American, even our poorest are considered wealthy in relation to other countries. Just having a home, a steady job, owning one or two cars, having three meals a day, a closet full of clothes, a tv and more, far and away exceed what others have. And none of that is wrong. James condemns the wrong use of riches – using wealth as a weapon rather than a tool to build others up. I’ve heard so many people over the years actually worry that Jesus will ask them to give up all their money and become a poor missionary. I say, if that’s truly what you are worried about then be careful, that just might be what God asks you to do!
James doesn’t stop there. Our lack of patience, our lies (both little and big), our lazy prayer life, and our lack of desire to help our fellow Christians grow and be their best in the eyes of Christ, are all on display this week in James 5.
If we aren’t careful so much of James can turn into one of those misused verses or phrases. If we remember two things as we work on the final week of this study let them be this: 1) it is always about what is in our heart that Jesus cares about and 2) thankfully we are given grace each and every time we confess that we have forgotten the first.
Born Again By His Spirit
How can you love others
when you can't love yourself,
is it a bridge too far?
Perhaps you've been hidden
away on a shelf
unaware of just who you are.
It is time for you now
to come into view
and to stand in the place of knowing;
to allow JESUS CHRIST
to take the helm
within your own boat you're been rowing.
And as you surrender
to His loving Grace
you will find yourself hidden in Him;
with His loving Light
outshining all others
allowing your sails to be trimmed.
Once blind, now you'll see,
for GOD will release
the Wind of His Spirit to blow,
which in turn your identity,
that was foreign to you,
will thus be revealed and you'll know.....
Right in the middle of this wonderful poem by fellow blogger, Carol Congalton, you’ll see a very important word: Surrender. A few weeks ago, my Bible Study Girls took up this topic of submission/surrender. The conversation went something like this:
BSG 1: “That sounds good to surrender my problem to God but how do I actually do that?”
BSG 2: “Ya, when Christians say, ‘just give it up to God’ I think that can give us a bad name. Like it’s that easy.”
BSG 3: “I mean the actual giving up is like, boom, done. But the work up to it is what is so difficult.”
BSG 1: “But I don’t know how to do that.”
BSG 2: “A pastor once said if you don’t want to forgive, then ask God to help you want to forgive. And if you have trouble doing that, ask God to help you want to learn how to forgive. If you don’t want to do that, ask God to help you want to ask to learn how to forgive!”
Great advice. When we are stuck, we need to go back to a place we are ok with and start there. Which brings us to submission. Ewww. For many of us just that word alone brings negative connotations. Some of us (most of us) just aren’t white flag wavers, especially when it comes to closely held beliefs and baggage.
Most of the time we just want the devil to flee from us without the submission part. You know, get the creamy inside without having to work our way through the hard, outer shell. The devil wants us to keep clinging to earthly definitions of submission. But God says,
I realized there’s two types of submission when it comes to being a Christian. There’s a big “S” and a little “s.” The big “S” is the flipping of the script. It’s the big “ah ha” moment in our lives. It’s not the same as when we decided to believe in God or even that Jesus is our Savior. There’s a lot of Christians that believe both those but haven’t fully submitted to God. It may have happened to us as a child and we are fortunate to have lived our lives in submission to God. My friend Betsy is like that. She can’t remember a time without God as her commander. And you can tell she’s had a lifetime to accept that God loves her immensely. We joke and say “What would Betsy do?” because the spirit of Jesus is apparent in her life.
Others of us may be long time Christians but only recently had that light switch flipped or maybe we haven’t gotten there yet. We’ve gone to church, did all the “right” Christian things except actual, full submission to God. I was listening to a great podcast from Transformation Church the other day. They had guest pastor Tim Ross as their speaker. His sermon focus was on upsetting the world. And by that he meant like the disciples, who went throughout unfriendly lands waking the world up to the Word and the love of Jesus, we should be the conduits for change in people’s lives. His three steps were:
Upset yourself – in other words wake up and recognize the sin in ourselves. It’s time to take God’s Word to heart and as James tells us, do the actual work of God.
Upset religion – a great line in his sermon was we should not be ok to show up to church when God is not present in that church. Joyce Meyers says if you leave church not feeling convicted or energized to go out and do good then you need to change churches.
Let go of our independence – and there’s the “Boom.”
We are so afraid to loosen our grip. So afraid of losing control. And yet our grip is choking the life out of… our life.
“Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.”
Dwight L. Moody
And if you don’t believe that, you need to pray for God to help you believe that. I love the story of Peter walking on water.
Notice Peter didn’t see Jesus, jump out of the boat and run toward Jesus in complete and total submission? He asked Jesus to call to him. And Jesus responded, “Come.” (Matt 14:29).
That was a pretty big “S.” Imagine if you were there sitting in the boat and saw Jesus. He tells you to “come” and either you refuse or you get about halfway out and you change your mind – faceplanting on the edge of the boat. There’s no halfway. You’re either in or you’re out. It’s not magic. When I sat at the edge of my boat I pleaded with God to tell me what I was doing wrong. I was being a “good Christian” and I was miserable. He was clear. “What have you really done?” was His response. He made it clear I had yet to fully submit to Him. I needed to climb out of the boat and walk to Him. And so, for the first time, I broke down and made a full commitment to Him.
And then there’s the little “s.” Like a little snake wiggling around at our feet, it’s the everyday moments where we make that re-commitment to submitting to God. They are our daily reminders that we have chosen not to be friends of this world but instead be children of God. We must have the big “S” before the little “s” can take on their full success and meaning. It’s those times when I’m tempted to get frustrated behind slow drivers or get mad at my husband for doing “that thing, yet again.” Or when I’m tempted to take on a new, difficult task without praying first. I must choose again to surrender to God to help fortify me. When I fail, I know He loves me and holds out a helping hand.
Our little “s” moments give us opportunities to grow and pull closer to God. Those moments allow God to remove what’s hindering us from joy. We may have a lot of little “s” moments until God sees that our big “S” is fully secure and planted in our hearts. I heard this quote somewhere, “God doesn’t take us on the longest or shortest path. He takes us on the right path for us.”
And when we submit completely to Him, to be His walking buddy on that path, only then can we enjoy the creamy filling – and the devil will flee from us. Because he knows there’s no getting past a person surrounded and filled with God.
If you aren’t sure you have fully submitted to God, ask Him. Ask Him to shine a light on any area that you still have firmly in your own grasp. Tell Him to call to you — and then get all the way out of that boat.
I really admire people who have the gift of poetry. To be able to take everyday life and turn it into a beautiful metaphor. Or, just make clear a concept in a few simple words. I found this beautiful poem about what God is that I thought you might enjoy! He is our refuge, our rock, our answer and so much more.
Be sure to add your words of praise for today in the comments section!
God, Is The Refuge God, Is The Rock God, Is The One, Who Sets Eternity’s Clock
God, Is The Treasure God, Is The Answer God, Is The Pleasure God, Is Adventure
God, Is The Right The Reason and Reality God, Is The Light The Judge and Finality
God, Is The Hope And Glory, Above All Things God, Is He, Who Spoke … Brought Forth, Living-Beings
God, Is The Power The Passion and Supreme God, Is … Our Unbeatable Dream-Team!
God, Is Wisdom And The Beautiful King God, Is The Vision In All Good Things
God, Is Mercy God, Is Just He … Is ‘ Who ’ We Need God, Doesn’t Need Us
God, Is The Holy-Core And Sacred-Mystery God Is … And Therefore … So, Are We
God, Is What His Word, Shows And What God … Is Made Of Everyone Knows … That, God Is … Love